Higher Expectations Earns National Backing to Launch Two-Generation Initiative


Focus on families

Higher Expectations is one of 9 winning community initiatives in the country that will tackle fundamental changes needed to help children and families move out of poverty and into successful careers

Higher Expectations, whose vision is a fully capable and employed Racine County workforce, has earned a grant from StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to bring communities together around data to make decisions and improve results for kids.

Higher Expectations will use its grant award to launch a two-generation initiative focused on moving parents, particularly single mothers with young children, into family-sustaining employment through educational advancement and training opportunities, while preparing their children for success in school.

The grant award is part of StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Community Challenge, which seeks to create local change to enable economic mobility. The program’s goal is to strengthen and align the many systems, such as education, employment, health and housing, that shape opportunity for children and families in America.

“We have analyzed the data, and we know that lack of education beyond high school is a key driver of unemployment in Racine. We also understand that barriers to employment disproportionately impact single mothers in Racine when compared with nearby communities,” Higher Expectations’ Executive Director, Jeff Neubauer, said. “At scale, our ability to remove these barriers — putting parents on a path from high school diploma to post-secondary credential attainment and family-supporting careers while supporting high quality childcare, education, and whole-child resources for their children — will determine whether we can truly address the root causes of multigenerational poverty in our community.”

Higher Expectations’ two-generation approach puts an equal focus on services and opportunities for parents and their children, giving us the ability to measure the impact of this work for the whole family. In addition to working with partners to help our systems work better for residents, Higher Expectations will be launching a paid training program that incorporates supports for adults and their children. The central components of this work include:
- Local employer participation and engagement
- Post-secondary pathways for high-demand careers informed by workforce trends
- High-quality early childhood education, services, and support
- Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, screenings and trauma informed care and services
- Mentorship and peer networks for program participants

This initiative will deepen the work with partners to address the skills gap in our community, and to grow our workforce in order to meet the needs of our local employers. Through funding from this grant, Higher Expectations is seeking candidates for two new positions, an Employment Initiatives Manager as well as a Project Manager, to lead this exciting work.

The Community Challenge will fund projects across the country that aim to shift public policy and engage the community-wide systems needed to help students progress from kindergarten to postsecondary completion and finding a job.

Higher Expectations is a recipient of the Opportunity Fund, which was awarded to help scale work in communities that have received StriveTogether’s highest designation for achieving better results using a data-driven approach. These projects focus on deeper systems change and align education with additional sectors such as health, housing and transportation.

Higher Expectations is also a part of the Wisconsin Partnership, along with Milwaukee Succeeds, Achieve Brown County, and Building our Future. As part of this partnership, we are a recipient of a Strategic Initiatives Fund grant, which was awarded by StriveTogether to initiatives to advance policy change for children by engaging policy leaders, leading grassroots advocacy, and coordinating efforts within state and local coalitions.

“Education is key to a strong economy, and every child should have the opportunity to achieve his or her fullest potential, but existing systems don’t always support the success of students, particularly students of color and those from low-income families,” StriveTogether President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “Using the common language of data, we can create better, more equitable systems to improve outcomes for major milestones in every child’s life. Our Cradle to Career Community Challenge will enhance and expand the real, lasting results underway across our 70 communities.”

See more coverage here: Higher Expectations initiative to help unemployed single mothers, their children

Elizabeth Erickson